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Effective Practices in Project Management

OGL 320
Lindsay Snowden
February 27, 2018

Effective Practices in Project Management

Part 1: Key Principles of Effective Project Management

The process of project management is complex. There are many moving parts which

without proper organization can easily fall into chaos. Fortunately, there are best practices,

management techniques, and planning strategies that can help maintain organization during

project management. To me, the principle practices of effective project management are

developing effective planning techniques, building a strong team by selecting the right members,

building and utilizing risk management plans, and maintaining good communication throughout

the project. With these key elements in play, a project can move forward efficiently and

effectively achieve success.

Before more organizational methods can take place for a project, a reliable and

appropriate team must be assembled. The “HBR Guide to Project Management” emphasizes the

importance of selecting the right members for your team as they are the “true engine of [your

projects] work” (2012, p. 34). The book recommends considering areas of proficiency in your

team members such as the appropriate technical skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal

skills, and organizational skills (HBR Guide to Project Management, 2012, p. 34). When team

members have the necessary skills and competencies, the tasks can be completed more

proficiently. In addition to having the right skills, it’s also helpful to have a team that is aligned

with objective and supports the team’s goals (HBR Guide to PM, 2012, p. 37). Devon Dean also

suggests selecting team members that are not too arrogant, work well with others, and will

contribute to the cohesiveness of the team (Youtube video). After selecting the appropriate team

members, a project manager can begin the more detailed planning aspects of a project.

While it’s necessary to know the tasks that will be required for a project before selecting

a well-matched team, tasks cannot be assigned until the team is selected. Therefore, the next

important principle of project management is using effective planning techniques. Some best

practices for effective and organized planning include creating a project charter, a work

breakdown structure (WBS), and creating a draft schedule. With these tools the process of the

project can be outlined and milestones/deadlines can be determined. These planning techniques

provide parameters in which the project should be completed. With the project charter outlining

the “nature and scope of the work and the management’s expectations for results” (HBR Guide

to PM, 2012, p. 41), the work breakdown structure helps managers “develop estimates, assign

personnel, track progress, and reveal the scope of a project” by subdiving larger tasks into

smaller ones (Managing Projects Large and Small, 2004, p. 71). With these planning techniques,

a project manager can outline and create visuals of the projects objectives after which the

scheduling can take place. Such techniques as defining the critical path or creating a Gantt Chart

can be useful in scheduling. Using the critical path method will help “identify which tasks are

critical…so you can allocate resources efficiently” (Managing Projects Large and Small, 2004, p.

79), and using a Gantt Chart will help show when project tasks should begin and end. Using

planning techniques that help clarify objectives, timelines, and scope will help keep a project

organized and will reduce the element of surprise. However, because unexpected elements may

occur, another crucial principle to project management is utilizing risk management tools.

A few of the risks that a project manager might deal with during a project include

financial resource risk, human resource risk, supply risk, and quality risk (Managing Projects

Large and Small, 2004, pp. 102-103). A way to mitigate these risks is to develop a risk

management plan. A risk management plan “identifies key risks and develops plans to prevent

them and/or mitigate their adverse effects” (Managing Projects Large and Small, 2004, p. 103). It

is important to identify and prioritize project risk by collecting ideas widely, and identifying

risks both internally and externally” (Managing Projects Large and Small, 2004, p. 104). While

risk management plans are often created at the start of a project, risk mitigation is an ongoing

tool that must be utilized throughout the project. While planning and preparing for risk are

essential, in order to minimize the impact of a risk, it’s imperative to take action as well as

develop contingency plans. Sometimes this may mean adjusting the scope of the project. The

more quickly and efficiently a team can deal with a risk, the less likely a project is to be derailed

by something unexpected. Additionally, the more cohesive and communicative a team is, the

more effectively they will work together to solve problems, and the more effectively they will

work together in general.

One of the final project management principles (among the many, many, principles that

could be considered important) that I consider essential to effective management is quality

communication. It has been mentioned several times throughout the semester that it’s likely for

teams to be assembled from different branches of a company. For this reason, communication

between the branches, and even between the team members, is vital to the success of the project.

The team at project management dot com suggests that having brief meetings to at the start of the

day to touch base with everyone on the project is a good practice. Devon Dean even mentions

making rounds around the office to touch base with people. Keeping clear lines of

communication open, especially since projects can have a lot of moving parts, is essential to the

success of a project.

With these four key principles, selecting the right team members, utilizing planning

techniques, creating risk management plans, and using effective and clear communication,

projects can stay organized and avoid chaos.

Part 2: Personal Learning and Enrichment

Before beginning this course in project management, I was oblivious to how many

aspects of a project a manager has to keep track of. There were several practices that I feel are

fundamental to staying organized which I can see myself implementing into current field of

work, as well as into future jobs.

One of my favorite “best practices” from the material in this course was the work

breakdown structure. I really connected with the organization of this planning tool. I liked the

idea of being able to break larger tasks into smaller ones and even assign timelines to them. To

me, this breaks up the “big picture” items into smaller manageable items and provides a specific

deadline for their completion. Often at home I will make a list of the things I need to accomplish

in a day and assign a timeline to them; usually down to the half hour. Because I utilize a

technique similar to the WBS already in my daily life, I can foresee it being something that is

easily implemented into my future projects both personal and professional.

Another item that piqued my interest in terms of project planning was using the project

premortem. I appreciated the perspective that a premortem can offer before a project is even off

the ground. To me, it is a unique way to problem solve, as well as mitigate issues that might not

have been predicted during the planning the phase. I appreciated the value and insight that a

premortem offered by extending the “our-project-has-failed” scenario to the entire team. To me,

this seems like an excellent opportunity for members on different parts of the team to problem

solve together and even gain insight to other areas or branches of the project. My hope is that

someday I plan a project specifically so I can use this tool.

In addition to these specific tools, I found some more general information about project

management to be valuable and insightful. For example, learning some of the project

management jargon from Jennifer Witt in the beginning of the semester was helpful for me to

understand some of the concepts throughout the semester. Devon Dean talking about how to

build a powerful and effective team was also insightful for me. When he spoke about choosing

team member with the minimum skill but the maximum potential, I found it to be an interesting

concept. He mentioned that choosing people with excellent skills in their field can sometimes

lead to conflict on a team as they can have arrogant and stubborn personalities. One thing he

mentioned in that video that stood out to me particularly was that good team members do not try

to out-do one another. I currently work on a management team where each member strives to be

better than the other. From that comment from Devon Dean alone I realized that I have a

different concept of teamwork than my current team members. It also made me realize the

importance of choosing members of a team that work together, support one another, and respect

the effort of each member. This will be something that sticks with me throughout my current and

future careers.

In general, I feel like I would not be ready to jump into a project management profession.

While I have gained so much new knowledge from this course, I feel that I would not quite

understand the complexity of managing large projects. One of my classmates wrote about

managing an employee luncheon, and that is something I feel I could handle at this point.

However, I feel larger projects still have many technical aspects that I would not understand how

to navigate. For example, one area I feel I would still need training or education in would be risk

management. While I understand how to build a risk management plan and the importance of it, I

would not know what kind of risks to look for in a project. I would have to rely heavily on my

team. Also, I would not know how to deal with management teams that refused to mediate or be

involved with a project. We read the case studies of Ducor and Corwin and it brought to life for

me the struggle of working on a team with poor communication. While I feel I could be aware

and also develop effective communication skills, I would not know how to navigate a situation

where upper-management didn’t respond to questions, or engage in troubleshooting or problem

solving. Another aspect of project management that I have very little experience with is resource

budgeting and allocation. In the Corwin case study the project manager ordered all of the

supplies ahead of the project. In hindsight, this was a poor decision, but I can’t say for sure I

would not make the same mistake. I would not know or understand the appropriate practices for

dealing with resources.

While I feel I still have a lot to learn about project management, I do feel confident that I

could organize and plan the outline of a project with confidence. Currently, planning and

teamwork would be my strengths and implementation and business would be my project

management weaknesses.

Overall, the material in this course has outlined the basic framework of project

management and given me a glimpse into the effort, knowledge and skills needed to manage a

project successfully. While it seems like a daunting profession, it also seems like a rewarding

challenge that could offer learning experiences, unique team building opportunities and bother

personal and professional development.



HBR guide to project management. (2012). Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Harvard business essentials: managing projects large and small. (2004). Boston: Harvard Business

School Press.